About the Birds and the Bugs, and the Flowers on the Trees

As the end of May is fast approaching, the spring innuendo of changing weather and slow growth has suddenly transformed into a loud explosion of new life, bringing a heat wave and what sounds like a blather of birds, buzzing insects and – occasionally, due to COVID19 – people passing by with their dogs.  In my backyard, mowing grass, transplanting young plants and sowing seed is now going on almost non-stop, but those are just some of the tasks for us humans; the Flora and Fauna in this microsystem of Mother Nature’s bosom have been pretty active, as well.

Two years ago, a family of robins built a nest on a light fixture outside the garage; last spring there were no robin nests in the backyard, but this year, another couple came to exactly the same spot.  At the beginning of the month, some eggs hatched, and by mid month, the chicks had grown enough to peek over the edge of the nest.  In the photo below, left, mama robin is seen carefully feeding two hungry chicks;  they became quite vocal, and were ready to leave the nest in no time (photo below, centre).  It was really interetsing that, a few days after the nest was emptied, a pair of sparrows dropped by to check out the premises (photo below, right).  My husband says that he saw a robin flying by and scaring the sparrows away, so now the nest remains there, empty.

Some bugs have also started their spring rituals; I have mentioned some beneficial insects that frequent my backyard, such as ladybugs and wasps, as well as some pests, including the asparagus beetle.  These beetles are black and red, some with stripes, and others are spotted; in the photo below, a common asparagus beetle (Crioceris asparagi) :

Adult Common Asparagus Beetle (Crioceris asparagi) My garden, May 2020

Asparagus is one of my earliest crops; after harvesting the spears for several weeks, the plants must be allowed to grow, so they may store energy for next year’s crop.  The spears quickly grow and develop into fronds:

Asparagus spears growing on the right side will quickly open up and develop into fronds, as seen on the left side of the photo (My garden, May 2020)

Asparagus beetles must be controlled because after the adults emerge from hibernation, they promptly mate and deposit eggs on the spears, buds and leaves, as seen below:

Three asparagus beetle eggs (smaller than sesame seeds) on an asparagus bud (My garden, May 2020)

Both the adults and their larvae will feed on the fronds for a few weeks, weakening the plants, which in turn are not able to store enough energy for next year’s growth and could even die.  These beetles have a very short life cycle, and once the larvae drop to the ground and pupate, the cycle starts again, all throughout the summer, repeating between two and three times.  I will be cleaning my asparagus plants twice a day, dropping the adults and larvae in a bucket of soapy water, and removing eggs; hopefully the wasps and spiders will show up at some point to help me with this pest.

Moving on to a happier note, now that the spring bulbs have faded, I am starting to see irises flowering and lilies growing.  The crabapple tree went from budding  (photo at the top of this post from May 13), to full bloom, really fast:

Crabapple blossoms (My garden, May 16, 2020)

The sight of these trees in bloom is a definitive sign of the warm weather season around here:

Last tulip flowers and Crabapple tree in full bloom (My garden, May 20, 2020)

The heat wave has made me think of Mexico, and how the natural scene might be looking right now.  Many people might say that Mexico City only has one season (perfect weather!) but there are some subtle changes throughout the year.  A beautiful example in spring is the blooming season of the jacaranda tree (Jacaranda mimosifolia):

Jacaranda trees in full bloom, outside a department store on Avenida de los Insurgentes ( Mexico City, April 2019)

And some people might say that Culiacan, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, where my sister lives, only has two seasons (hot and really hot, LOL), but that allows the state to have an eight-month-long tomato season, and my sister to grow basil as a perennial in her patio.  In the photos below, just to put things into perspective, my sister’s basil plant, followed by my recently transplanted basil seedlings:


I am linking to Cee’s Flower of the Day (FOTD) Challenge for May 26, 2020.

26 thoughts on “About the Birds and the Bugs, and the Flowers on the Trees

  1. Nice tour of your yard, Irene. I’ve seen those asparagus beetles in other years but none so far this year. I’ll be posting pics of my yard soon from a couple days ago. So cool to have perennial basil for your sister.

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    1. Lucky you, MsJadeLi, without those pesky beetles! Last fall I never got a chance to clear all the brush before winter, and I think a lot of them got to spend the winter all cozy under the dry vegetation, so I am paying the price now. Looking forward to seeing at what stage your yard is. Were you affected by the recent floods at all? Hope not; stay safe and well!

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      1. Irene, I spoke too soon, as I checked asparagus after putting bins out to the road. There were none before now they are crawling with them 😦 The extreme heat must have hatched them? Ugh. I snapped them off with the beetles on but by the time I tossed them in the ditch water they’d bailed. I can try and clear the brush out of there but it isn’t easy as so much grass grows around them. Is there something to put on the ground to kill the larvae (non-toxic?)

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      2. Ugh yikes! I think at this point a bucket of soapy water is you best ally, you put it next to the spear and flick/shake the little bugs right in. And also look for those tiny grey ovals to get rid of them before they hatch. Best of luck!

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      3. No! 😦 I think it’s time to drown the lot and cut them off at the ground. I wonder if diatomaceous earth sprinkled there would wipe out the ones still surviving afterwards?

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      4. Oh, dear, so extreme! I don’t know about the diatomaceous earth, but this website: https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/diatomaceous-earth-non-toxic-pest-control-for-your-home-and-garden/
        says “When plant leaves are dry with a forecast of good weather, dust plants with diatomaceous earth to help control asparagus beetle, Mexican bean beetle, potato beetle and cutworm.” I am guessing if you sprinkled it on the ground, the bugs would get it as they come out, maybe?

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    1. My tree has tiny fruit, so I have never tried harvesting; it just grew from a volunteer seed that maybe a bird dropped in the flower bed, and I think it is mostly an ornamental, but maybe this year I will give them a try.

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  2. Oh the basil…I am so jealous. I am in New England, and my basil is substandard until late July. Love the crabapples too. Gardening in the north is a matter of compromise, daring, and a bit of acceptance.

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    1. Interestingly enough, I think there are more backyard gardeners in our extreme climate zones than in places like Mexico City; I think it is because produce is so readily available and inexpensive there that people take it for granted. My basil harvest is also restricted to the summer months, but oh boy, it is so worthwhile the wait, isn’t it? Do you preserve basil for the cold months? I learned the trick of piling up a bunch of leaves and rolling them like a cigar, then you wrap them in plastic and freeze them. When you need some, just cut thin slices from the frozen cylinder; it is so efficient, and takes less space than freezing into ice cubes.

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  3. Beautiful blooms, Irene. How hot is a heat wave where you are?
    I don’t think we get those asparagus beetles. If I ever post of photo of one, admiring it, I hope that you will let me know so that I can take steps to dampen their enthusiasm for passion.

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    1. The temperatures are in the low 30s centigrade right now, which is very hot for the month of May, but in the summer months that is the average, and we have had heat waves almost reaching the 40s. Lucky you with no asparagus beetles! I hope I don’t jinx you; MsJadeLi @ Tao Talk said the same thing and one hour later wrote back to report an invasion in her asparagus patch!

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  4. Wow, those beetles sounds like a lot of trouble for you. I’ve never seen them here, but had a wonderful asparagus crop this year. That sounds like a great tip for freezing basil. I usually try to dry some. That works well for me and is better than store-bought. My seedlings have barely just sprouted! Love your flowering crabapple!

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